Eight Tibetan opera narratives express Buddhist concepts in myths and stories for the enjoyment and edification of readers of all ages.
Timeless Buddhist ideas come to life in the myths and stories in Tales from the Tibetan Operas. Poetically vibrant, these eight classic lhamo stories have continued to delight and edify Tibetan audiences of all backgrounds, from village children to learned scholar-monks and Dalai Lamas. Western readers can now also get a glimpse into ancient Indian and Tibetan history and mythology through these cultural touchstones.
The operas revolve around the drives of the human condition: the desire for power, the irresistible seduction of attraction, thoughts of revenge, attachment to family, the fear of separation and pain, the wish to be free from oppression. On visual display are the human and nonhuman characters of history and folklore — kings, queens, conniving ministers, ordinary folk, yogis, monks, and powerful beings from other realms such as gods and nagas — engaged in plotting, kidnapping, fighting and death, journeys to faraway lands, separation, and reconciliation, often with a quest for seemingly impossible treasure. The suspenseful tales have many dramatic plot twists, but they all end in happiness, where the good achieve their goals and the bad receive their just desserts. The operas thus bring to the people the fundamental ethical laws of behavior and teachings of natural justice based on Buddhist doctrine.
The book features more than fifty gorgeous photos of the operas being performed in Tibet and India.
Gavin Kilty has been a full-time translator for the Institute of Tibetan Classics since 2001. Before that he lived in Dharamsala, India, for fourteen years, where he spent eight years training in the traditional Geluk monastic curriculum through the medium of class and debate at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. He has also received commissions to translate for other institutions, such as the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Teachings, Tibet House Germany, The Gelug International Foundation, and Tsadra Foundation.
“This book makes available for the first time the stories on which Tibet's greatest operas are based. These wonderful legends are also Tibet's most important and enduring folk tales. Rendered into beautiful English by Gavin Kilty and prefaced with an important essay on the history of the lhamo operatic tradition, Tales from the Tibetan Operas is a superb addition not just to the Library of Tibetan Classics but to world literature itself.”
– —José Ignacio Cabezón, Dalai Lama Professor of Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
“More than the treasure text or the Dharma discourse, over the centuries, the people of Tibet have imbibed the principles of Buddhism from the songs, dances, and dramas of Tibetan opera. Here, for the first time, the most famous of those operas appear in English, masterfully translated by Gavin Kilty, who provides a fascinating introduction to the genre and its history. Some of the stories are familiar from India, some are set in Tibet, some are set in India. Together, they evoke the spirit of the performing arts of Tibet.”
– —Donald Lopez, Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, University of Michigan